AN IRVINE volunteer has told how she put her life back together as she now prepares for the finals of a major national award.

Claire MacLaughlin volunteers her free time with the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (ScotCPS) in Ardrossan, and has been listed as one of six finalists in The Third Sector Awards 2022 for 'Volunteer of the Year'.

Claire is now a level two instructor with the North Ayrshire charity, a qualification she gained by teaching up to 35 self defence techniques, plus defending herself during a five minute 'Pressure Test' consisting of 20 scenarios.

Three of these could be de-escalated using her voice and body language , and 17 required Claire to defend herself against up to three padded "attackers".

She passed her level one exam back in February of this year, and has taught the self defence techniques she has learned to several different woman's groups and schools local to the chairty since then.

This award nomination is testament to the Claire, who has chosen to use her own experiences to help others who may find themselves in situations like she once was.

She was a victim of domestic violence herself, before she joined ScotCPS - where she has now helped train over 500 people in personal safety defence skills.

Claire said: "I came from Ayr with nothing! I put my four kids into school, went home, grabbed some wee bits we needed and got them from school, and we never went home.

"I went to the police after a month and started going to Women's Aid. Then I started going to the gym, started college and slowly putting my life back together.

"My kids had support from Women's Aid and they thrived. My confidence grew when I started attending The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety. I also started working with ASSIST and STAR and I've experienced just how much having someone there can help."

Claire then told of why her experience with the charity led to her wanting to become an instructor herself.

She added: "I jumped at the chance to be an instructor because I know how much it helped me, not just by being able to defend myself but the confidence, the mind-set that I wasn't a victim anymore!

"I want to move forward helping women and children in the same position me and mine have been in. Not just by sitting with a coffee but actually helping them find the building blocks to move forward in their lives. Physically and mentally!

"I'm so grateful to have had my efforts recognised by The Third Sector Awards."

Everyone from the ScotCPS is now backing Claire in the awards, with the final being held in London, on September 30, 2022.

The charity's founder, Alan Bell, commented: "We are thrilled to hear that Claire has reached the final of the Third Sector Awards in the category of 'Volunteer of the Year'.

"We know this is a very competitive category with thousands of nominations each year, so for Claire to be shortlisted to the last six is absolutely amazing.

"Claire has come so far since being referred to us a client from North Ayrshire Women's Aid. Her confidence has grown and to see her teaching others as a fully qualified Personal Safety Instructor is inspirational.

"We are all extremely proud of Claire's achievements and we will be rooting for her to win this award in September."